There isn’t enough focus on milk in gaming. There is even less of a focus on airborne, alien exploration RPG titles that have you fighting monster cows to save your dying race. Thank God Moo Lander is here to fill this legen-dairy niche.
I appreciate any title that can take a twisted premise and play it carefully – in this case, Moo Lander has introduced me to a concept I had never considered in my life – using milk as a life-saving resource. Touching down on an alien planet in your milk-powered UFO, your ship AI will help guide you towards this precious resource that must be attained by way of defeating fearsome alien beasts, sporting deadly udders, we’re talking mutant mega cows.
If you can’t beat this cow your might be PASTURE prime
But before any cows can be moo-tilated, you must first traverse this strange alien world. Thankfully your ship is oddly perfect for scooting along narrow corridors and the odd expansive area, unlocking stone doors and clearing obstacles in various creative ways. The majority of puzzles within the game take a moment or two to map out in your head – the order of operations is the fun bit – but you will encounter some great head scratchers. It feels like a serious dog’s age since I had a proper physics-based puzzle, and using all kind of swingy things and debris catchers and weight-based seesaw items had me joyfully feeling like a milk-powered genius.
When you aren’t figuring out the path forward, you are taking note of what kind of roadblocks may be mocking you, as this game is somewhat of a Metroidvania (moo-troidvania?). Some mechanics early in the piece will become entirely different once you take into account something like a reflective shield, or even the basic act of shooting something to move it – rather than making use of the environment. It’s thrilling to take a new toy and apply it to existing problems, realising that the dynamic has shifted far more in your favour. The world has been meticulously handcrafted to make sure that player power peaks in the right way, and at the right time.
I thought I HERD something buzzing around
Then, there is the beef of the game – killer cows. The first cow you encounter looks a great deal like what you’d expect out of an everyday bovine – perhaps minus the antennae. Fighting it is a case of learning attack patterns, and trying not to be bullied by their various shoving moos and bumps. But each cow is very much its own beast, with their own quirks and environmental strategies. One minute I was dodging gaseous clouds of cow butt trumpets, the next I was lobbing a roof-full of rocks to bonk a spritely dodger that kept evading me. Each cow has their own quirk – and mastering them is a thrill every time.
The visuals are positively stunning, giving a real Rayman Origins vibe with how the vibrant colours are utilised. Projectiles from enemies stand out like a sore thumb, and particle effects are used to great effect when bumping and scraping a puzzle solution together. In screenshots, you may think that the visual style is quite simplistic – but in motion the range of smaller moving details do a ton to bring it all to life, with grasping vines and pulsing nodules growing out of the walls. Everything is super clear and readable, making sure you are always aware of threats and objectives.
Dandelion dude is mean mugging something fierce
Sound also plays a brilliant part – well beyond alien moos and the like. Music has a great ambient vibe that doesn’t outstay its welcome while you are tooling about exploring, something that easily could have become a grating issue for long term play. Threats also have great audio cues to make sure you aren’t caught off guard, particularly with the various projectile enemies that can surprise you with the verticality of larger outdoor sections – sometimes those buggers will just come out of nowhere, so hearing them is a godsend.
You will come to quickly realise that the combat and its various mechanics are far from deep. You’ll be blasting milk at baddies, shielding against nasty stuff and dodging whatever you can – and this won’t really change all that much. Upgrades will help smooth out some of the moment-to-moment encounters, but combat will peak early and stay reasonably similar for the rest of the game. It’s not to say it is boring – thankfully events like cow battles are fleshed out by way of unique arena mechanics or cow behaviours so you can still apply a little thought to it – more so that it will hit its stride early and then stay at that pace for the rest of the game.
Why yes, that is a milk sword
Something that I encountered right before I intended to sit down and write this review – if only because I didn’t even expect it – is the fact that the title has couch multiplayer. Cow-nvincing some mates to play cow soccer or take on a horde mode isn’t terribly difficult when you pose the question as, “Do you want to play a game about space cows?”, and in reality these are a fun little addition for anything with a couple controllers handy. The fact that you can then play as one of the mighty cows and defend your milkiness is inspired fun – and couch content is always a win in my book.
If you can subscribe to the goofiness of the premise, you’ll find several hours of engaging content to explore. The metroidvania aspect of the game is well implemented so you never feel like you are aimlessly wandering – when you figure out a new trick or gain a new toy, you are already buzzing off to where to best utilise it. Couple this with the pace of combat and the relatively consistent cow encounters and you have a curiosity driven tale of a man seeking his saviour: Milk.
Route all power to forward milk shields
Moo Lander checks every box for a unique, fun indie title. Creativity in spades, with mechanics that are simple to learn but fiendish to master – it’s udderly charming, with just the right sting of difficulty when it matters.
Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher
- THE SIXTH HAMMER
- THE SIXTH HAMMER
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
- May 16 2022